Richard Aoki, an activist who was responsible for securing weapons for the original Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, has been named as an FBI informant in a new documentary by the Center for Investigative Reporting.
The report suggests that Aoki's presence among the Panthers was part of a Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) operation, in which radical groups are encouraged to commit violence in order to give the FBI a pretext to move against them, and to discredit those groups with the public. These tactics have been controversial since their inception, and many of such alleged COINTELPRO operations were likely illegal.
Investigative journalist Seth Rosenfeld, who narrates the documentary, reports that he was first tipped to Aoki's presence as an informant by FBI Agent Burney Threadgill, who claimed to have "developed" Aoki.
That's not to say that Aoki himself wasn't a militant activist in his own right. During his time living in Berkeley, Aoki had been the head of a Black Panther group, as well as several companion organizations formed to protect Asian-Americans. He had also been involved in gangs during high school while simultaneously becoming co-valedictorian. However, despite his radical racial pedigree, Aoki still had no interest in communism, which Threadgill claimed led him to become an informant.
Aoki did not admit to being an informant when questioned about this subject. However, FBI records (obtained by Freedom of Information Act requests) also listed him as an informant.
Considering the controversial nature of COINTELPRO operations, Aoki's "outing" has raised questions about whether the FBI still engages in these tactics. Russia Today decided to pursue this question, and invited Trevor Aaronson, author of the book "Terror Factory," on its show recently to discuss the prevalence (or non-prevalence) of COINTELPRO operations in the present day FBI: